Parents win last-minute victory in school curriculum review: 'Neanderthals' to join advisory groups. Fran Abrams reports

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The Independent Online
PARENTS have been given seats on the advisory groups that, from next week, are to slim down the national curriculum. The last-minute move follows complaints that ministers' talk of bringing more 'parent power' into education has brought few results.

One of the parents' representatives who will start work on Monday, Margaret Morrissey, was described as 'Neanderthal' by John Patten, Secretary of State for Education, last February.

Mrs Morrissey, spokeswoman for the National Confederation for Parent Teacher Associations, will join three other parents on the four committees that will oversee each stage of the curriculum. They are to help in the slimming down exercise which follows a review by Sir Ron Dearing, whose recommendations were published last week and accepted in full by Mr Patten.

Testing is to be cut by half and the content of the national curriculum will be cut in each of its 10 subjects.

Sir Ron, chairman of the School Curriculum and Assessment Authority, was forced to act after Mrs Morrissey accused the Government of asking parents to take responsibility for schools without offering them any power.

They were being asked to sit on school governing bodies and to help with fund-raising, but were cut out of debate on major issues.

Sir Ron promised to give a role in the review process to parents who had experience as governors or as lay inspectors.

Mrs Morrissey said: 'I am absolutely delighted . . . I hope that in future we will be considered at the early stages.'

Two of the three main teachers' unions have instructed members to lift their ban on national curriculum tests after the Government promised to cut them by half, but a ban on teachers' assessment of pupils will continue.

The National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers and the Association of Teachers and Lecturers are to curtail their action.